The England cricket team has been rocked by the news that James Taylor, who batted at five in their last Test match, has had to cut short his hugely promising career at the age of 26 due to a serious heart condition. Jonny Bairstow said he “felt numb” when he heard the news.
It will, no doubt, cause every member of the team to be grateful for their health and determined to make the most of their career. Steven Finn will be no different. Back after a side strain ruled him out of the Twenty 20 World Cup, he’s got his eye on the first Test against Sri Lanka at Headingley next month and then the one at the home of cricket in June.
The Watford-born bowler hasn’t represented his country at Lord’s since a 170-run win over New Zealand in the first Test in May 2013. Finn took four wickets in the first innings but England didn’t need his input in the second as the Black Caps were all out for 68. Earning his 21st Test cap since making his debut in Bangladesh in 2010, Finn could not have imagined what has followed.
The Langleybury member, 27, has earned just eight more caps since – six of those coming since last summer. He has fought back from the ignominy of being deemed unselectable by then England one-day coach Ashley Giles and suffered more than his fair share of injuries, the last of which cut short his involvement in England’s winter tour of South Africa after the third Test.
Those fitness problems are behind the imposing 6ft 7in paceman now, evidenced by the vigour with which he swung a pickaxe at Radlett Cricket Club recently, when he joined his Middlesex teammates to prepare for the new county season with some ground improvement work.
“There’s still no sound like the Lord’s buzz when you walk out on the first morning of a Test match,” Finn told WD Sport. “There’s the buzz and the people in the Harris Garden or at the Nursery End when you’re warming up. It’s a really special experience and something I’m desperate to experience again this summer. I’ve not played Lord’s Test since 2013. When you’re younger you dream of playing a Test match at Lord’s, taking a five-wicket haul at Lord’s or winning a Test match at Lord’s and that’s still very much my aim.”
Finn’s triumphant return last summer, against Australia at Trent Bridge, came more than two years after his last Test outing for England. Middlesex director of cricket and England selector Angus Fraser has been impressed with how the big Watford fan has overcome adversity again to barge down the England selectors’ door once more.
“He’s shown a lot of strength,” Fraser told WD Sport. “Some people might take the view that to have difficulties would show weakness in the first place. But there isn’t a person who doesn’t go home some evenings after a day’s work and doubt themselves. The real challenge is coming through the other end and showing the determination and desire to get back. He’s shown he’s very strong mentally and has a lot of drive and determination.
“It would be easy to toss it off and earn a nice existence just playing for Middlesex for the next ten years, but he wants to get back to England. That’s where he wants to be, that’s where he should be with what he’s got up his sleeve and hopefully he will be for years to come.”
There is little doubt Finn’s patience would have been tested after being sent home from the 2013-14 Ashes tour to work on his bowling action. However, he suggests there has been at least one positive to take from the experience. “Since I’ve had my action problems, I feel I know my game a lot better and I’m able to settle into my game a lot earlier now,” he said. “It used to take me time to build up to bowling well again but it seems to happen quite quickly after injury or if I’ve had a few weeks off. I feel like I’ve been bowling well now for 18 months or so. Since I’ve come back into the England team I’ve enjoyed myself and I feel like the coach and captain back me.”
A lot had changed in the Test set up during Finn’s exile, not least the identity of the coach. Trevor Bayliss is the man charged with reviving England’s Test fortunes. The Australian succeeded Peter Moores after his short-lived second stint in the hotseat and he has impressed Finn. “He’s very quiet but when he does say something it’s quite pertinent and it means a lot,” says Finn. “I’ve really enjoyed working with him. He’s very laid back and he suits my style of play. He encourages you to go out there and take wickets and try to influence games.”